East Indian Jews representin’ in TO


by Sunny
29th November, 2005 at 1:32 am    

East Indian JewA bit belated, but I found this ad (on the right) funny.

The Toronto Jewish Film Festival ran it in May this year [via SM]. You just feel like giving him a big hug.

More on Indian Jews can be found here and here.

I have to be honest, I don’t know much about that community, and they generally seem to keep to themselves like the Parsis.

And just for a laugh, here is funny picture from the Sikh Spinning Wheel film festival, also in Toronto, earlier this year.


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  1. shihab — on 29th November, 2005 at 3:41 am  

    Slow news day huh? But here’s a crap joke.

    Totally lost, a freshie with a heavy Indian accent goes up to a chap wearing a skull cap and says: ‘excooz me, do you know when de next bus is joo?’

    The guy says: ‘Piss off paki’

  2. blue mountain — on 29th November, 2005 at 5:49 am  

    One vital fact

    India is the only country where Jews have never been prosecuted for their religion

  3. inders — on 29th November, 2005 at 7:20 am  

    hardly a vital fact.

  4. Vikrant — on 29th November, 2005 at 7:51 am  

    Well.. my family comes from Alibaug, Maharshtra which is just south of Bombay. It was the place where Bene Israelis landed in India 2000 years ago. The town has got its own synagogue called Jerusalem Gate. Bene Israelis speak Marathi and have Marathi surnames. Though they number 50000 worldwide, only 4000 or so remain in India.

  5. shihab — on 29th November, 2005 at 8:17 am  

    Another vital fact

    None of the current residents of Biyoni Bazaar, Dhoompara, Sylhet, were directly involved in bringing about the holocaust

  6. Siddharth — on 29th November, 2005 at 10:17 am  

    Another vital fact:
    Ben E King and Ravi Shankar are known to be good mates. Ravi originates from Kushtia, Bangladesh and recorded an album called Passages with Philip Glass. Philip is a Jewish musician and is really quite good!

  7. shoefiend — on 29th November, 2005 at 10:33 am  

    Hi! came here via Sakshi’s Blog. Interesting articles and points of view. Great job

  8. Col. Mustafa — on 29th November, 2005 at 11:16 am  

    I love jews.
    Especially Larry David and Jerry seinfeld.

    JERRY JERRY JERRY JERRY.

    Im gonna change my name to Jerry.

    Jerry Akbar Ali.

  9. sonia — on 29th November, 2005 at 12:10 pm  

    ah now the interesting thing about indian jews in my opinion is simply that it skews the ‘race’ thing – you know how some people insist that ‘racially’ all Jewish people must be the same, look the same etc. …( after all these centuries and all that sort of thing – usually something you hear levelled at ‘european’ jews – the whole anti-semitic thing was about how they were so ‘separate’ racially. though as i pointed out – whilst there may be something to say e..g in the fact of a shared ancestry some 4000 years ago – clearly 4000 years later..? you’re not going to have the EXACT same genetic make up are you.

    though a lot of people being the biological determinists they are and thereby confused would probably disagree.

  10. Sakshi — on 29th November, 2005 at 12:17 pm  

    I love the pic… :)

  11. sonia — on 29th November, 2005 at 1:02 pm  

    going off topic here – ( perhaps one of the editors can stick up a post about this..)

    just read this article on the guardian and wondered what people’s reactions were.

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/race/story/0,11374,1653120,00.html

    interesting but i did think that the person who is ‘running the racial monitoring thing’ said was a bit funny:

    ” But [the Asians] have an unfair advantage: they came from Uganda and Kenya with money. I cannot condone what Idi Amin is supposed to have done – I stress supposed to have done – but the fact is that the Afro-Caribbeans were here first, then the Asians came and built an economy based on the millions they had made in Africa.”

    hmm – i don’t know much about Brum – but surely there are asians who didn’t come via africa!? isn’t that a bit of a simplistic analysis?

  12. shihab — on 29th November, 2005 at 1:09 pm  

    Didn’t the Ugandan Asians famously have their assets siezed by Idi and kicked out penniless?!

  13. shihab — on 29th November, 2005 at 1:10 pm  

    most of the Asians in Britain come from the subcontinent without making a detour through africa (unless they were flying aeroflot)

  14. bananabrain — on 29th November, 2005 at 1:27 pm  

    well, i actually happen to be one of these famous indian jews, at least on my mother’s side. being suspiciously swarthy and eating curry at home, i grew up thinking of myself as more or less indian (certainly all my family used to get called “pakis” quite often, although not by our co-religionists) at least before i got more into the religious side of things. mum was born in mumbai and came to the UK with her family when she was 11. interestingly, her two best friends were parsi – don’t know if that makes them “exclusive” or not, heh. my grandparents were born in karachi, which caused my mum no end of trouble when she applied for her indian visa the other day. deary me.

    like the links say, most of the indian communities are now in israel or in london, the baghdadis (of which i am one) came as economic migrants in the ’50s, after independence, when they started to feel things were going downhill. there are other large communities in new jersey and, i believe, in toronto and LA. i’ve had a lot of involvement with the community here in london in the last 5 years, including playing ‘oud (arabic lute) with the local bombay iraqi “buena vista social club”, a traditional group called rivers of babylon (see http://www.riversofbabylon.com) and doing some IT work for one of the jewish oriental carpet importers in the stamford hill area. anyway, i got interested in the community in general and now the traditional indian iraqi-style synagogues, liturgy, pronunciation, customs and so on are my preferred option, much to the consternation of my lovely wife, who is ashkenazi (or goree if you prefer) – at any rate my accent annoys her. hehehehe.

    whether ashkenazis and sephardis (the umbrella term for non-european jews, although, actually it refers to the communities from spain and portugal, not those from the middle east, very eurocentric) get on is a very long and complicated story. nobody could accuse me and my wife of looking even vaguely ethnically similar. there are jews of every “race”, because it’s a religion as well as an ethnic group, black, white, brown, yellow, you name it. the idea that jews are exclusively white or western is frankly nonsense, probably put about by people who thought that that was what you had to be to get ahead. in fact, even the baghdadis thought that, because if you were classified as “european” under the raj you could get into the country club. you get the general picture.

    the whole anti-semitic thing was about how they were so ’separate’ racially.
    anti-semitism is pretty complicated. that might be what it is about in one place, but it’s by no means the whole story. anyway, that’s a whole ‘nother thing, which you can read about at your leisure.

    actually, my pseudo-indian background is one of the things that got me involved in dialogue work. quite aside from my complexion, i always had asian friends, both hindu and muslim. more recently, it struck me that practically everyone i know watched “goodness gracious me” and the “kumars”. we’ve all got similar mothers, aunties, etc. desi humour is pretty jewish, frankly. “no pork!…and that thing you do with your hand…very bad!!”

    i could go on, but i dare say if anyone wants to know anything else about the indian jewish community, they’ll ask. i’m perfectly happy talking about it.

    b’shalom

    bananabrain

  15. Al-Hack — on 29th November, 2005 at 2:00 pm  

    Wow BlueMountain, that is so amazing. That would probably make Indian Jews the only minority in India not to be persecuted.

    Bananabrain, interesting stuff there mate. Do the Indian Jews have vasty different customs? Are they more Indian or more Jew in their customs and traditions, out of interest.

  16. sonia — on 29th November, 2005 at 2:09 pm  

    hey bananabrain that’s really interesting. obviously anti-semitism is complex – obviously any form of social ‘othering’ is complex .and a slow build-up in certain forms and in different ways in different places..

    .i think i was referring to the european case…which as im sure you know – just the whole thing of – even now – people will ask other people’s ethnicity – and if you’re jewish – even if you aren’t on the ‘surface’ different – a lot of people will then say ”ahh’ right so you’re not ‘really’ english then. i find it interesting as it speaks volumes about people’s understanding of what can be considered within ‘their group’ and what is ‘outside’ . also oviously after the holocaust it was understandable how a lot of jewish people fleeing didn’t want to associate ‘german-ness’ with their identity – but when you hear people say oh those people were jewish NOt german – and you think – well the two are not necessarily mutually exclusive. as i say, after the holocaust you can see why people would want to separate the two. but the reasoning that led up to the holocaust in the first place was obviously faulty! an interesting point – my other half’s grandparents were from berlin and jewish – and his great-aunt was saying the other day how they never really thought about being jewish or different till hitler told them so.

    i just think society never changes much – the same patterns all over the place.

  17. Geezer — on 29th November, 2005 at 2:29 pm  

    Great insightful post bananabrain thanks for that.

  18. Rohin — on 29th November, 2005 at 3:02 pm  

    “India is the only country where Jews have never been prosecuted for their religion”

    “Ben E King and Ravi Shankar are known to be good mates. Ravi originates from Kushtia, Bangladesh and recorded an album called Passages with Philip Glass. Philip is a Jewish musician and is really quite good!”

    Philip Glass is friends with Martin Scorsese and scored his film Kundun, which is about the Chinese invasion of Tibet and the Tibetans fleeing to India to ESCAPE persecution of their religion.

    Ahh, the circle is complete.

    Oh and Sammy Davis Jnr is Jewish, that never fails to surprise someone.

  19. Col. Mustafa — on 29th November, 2005 at 3:12 pm  

    So Kundun isn’t a shit indian film which i classed it as without bothering to actually see what the story was about.
    hmm, i might watch it now.

  20. Rohin — on 29th November, 2005 at 3:37 pm  

    Why did you think it was Indian?

    It’s not a perfect film, but it’s one of my favourites. It was on this weekend actually, but as it was in the afternoon on five, they censored parts of it out – specifically a funeral scene and some of the symbolism used to describe what the Chinese did to the Tibetans.

    I’ve been involved with the Tibetan cause for quite a few years now, so I’m sure I’m biased towards this film, but I really think it’s superb. I say that as a filmmaker, a fan of Scorsese, a fan of the Dalai Lama (Kundun is another name for the Dalai Lama, it means Ocean of Wisdom) and as someone who feels strongly about the crimes of China.

  21. shihab — on 29th November, 2005 at 3:40 pm  

    Anyone know what happenned with the 16-year-old dalai lama buddha type chap’s incarnation the other day? was it a hoax?

  22. Col. Mustafa — on 29th November, 2005 at 3:47 pm  

    There might be an indian film called Kundun maybe for me to completely by pass this film.
    Just assumed from name it was indian, but the story was enough for me to start downloading.
    I never saw any reviews or anything for this.
    Ive missed hundreds of good films like that, but what can ya do when theres so much tripe on.
    I just start losing interest until someone slaps me and says yeh dude, descents a good film.
    Yeh right my arse it is, if i had the hiccups and i tried every possible way to get rid of them and none worked then maybe i would give descent a try.

    Ive been betrayed so many times when it comes to film and music that i just dont acknowledge anything anymore.

  23. Vikrant — on 29th November, 2005 at 4:04 pm  

    Al Hack man you’ve given a pretty temtpting flame bait there.BTW Bagdhad Jews and Bene Israelis arent same isnt it?

  24. bananabrain — on 29th November, 2005 at 4:56 pm  

    Do the Indian Jews have vasty different customs? Are they more Indian or more Jew in their customs and traditions, out of interest.
    well, the bene israel i think are pretty indian – they have indian names, look more indian, speak marathi and so on. the thing about the baghdadis is that they were always quite snobby. the baghdadis always looked down on the bene israel (“too dark, dontcherknow, old chap”) and sucked up to the british – my own grandfather anglicised his name so that the raj bureaucrats could spell it. admittedly it was pretty tough pronouncing his original arabic surname, but never mind. in terms of customs and traditions, there’s a strong cooking theme – read claudia roden’s books on this, which are jolly good and tasty too (the recipes not the books)

    anyway, the indian-ness is really more cultural. religiously speaking, there’s no indian influence whatsoever; that doesn’t really happen in traditional judaism. in any case, the baghdadi/babylonian tradition is the oldest jewish community in the world, dating back to the destruction of the first Temple in 586CE rather than the that of the second in 70CE, like the rest of the diaspora. so, at home, the community might eat “murgh hamin” (slow-cooked sabbath chicken curry, yum) but they’d speak judeo-arabic, not indian languages or english, which would be used for business.

    sonia – on the persecution question, jews were not as far as i know persecuted (except when the portuguese arrived in goa) but things got very nasty after partition, because the jewish community could see that it would not last long considering they were now part of an islamic state that didn’t recognise israel, so they pretty much upped and left. the indian jews left more because they were feeling that they would end up getting targeted during the decolonialisation process for economic reasons.

    people will ask other people’s ethnicity – and if you’re jewish – even if you aren’t on the ’surface’ different – a lot of people will then say ‘’ahh’ right so you’re not ‘really’ english then
    hehe. that certainly happens. actually, a lot of the time it happens when i’m abroad and someone says, effectively, “you can’t be english, because you aren’t white”. english people are generally far more unsurprised.

    obviously after the holocaust it was understandable how a lot of jewish people fleeing didn’t want to associate ‘german-ness’ with their identity – but when you hear people say oh those people were jewish NOt german – and you think – well the two are not necessarily mutually exclusive.
    well, this isn’t really on-topic, but the “ethnic” racism and anti-semitism that we see nowadays actually appeared in the 19th century once jews started converting to christianity after the enlightenment. in europe, previous to this, anti-semitism was based on religious prejudice, “the jews killed jesus” etc. the question of whether you could be a jewish citizen of a christian country only arose with the modern nation-state. before that it was assumed that to be french was to be christian, etc.

    an interesting thing about the dalai lama is that he has met with jewish leaders to try and understand how tibetan culture will survive in exile, without sovereignty and a geographical focus on the land of tibet – he figured that we’ve lasted 2000 years in exile and then returned, so obviously we must know how to adapt. clever man, that. if you want to read about this, there’s a jolly good book called “the jew in the lotus” by rodger kamenetz, where he describes the encounter.

    b’shalom

    bananabrain

  25. sonia — on 29th November, 2005 at 5:06 pm  

    yeah not much of what i say is on topic – i dont let that worry me. not that much of a conformist unfortunately. anyway bananabrain very interesting stuff…

  26. Vikrant — on 29th November, 2005 at 5:06 pm  

    Just assumed from name it was indian, but the story was enough for me to start downloading.

    ;)

  27. Prem — on 29th November, 2005 at 6:09 pm  

    That quote from the Guardian about the Asians in Lozells coming from Uganda with their wealth is demented bullshit – the Asians in that area are Pakistanis, Sylheti Bangladeshis and Sikhs with their roots straight in the sub-continent – they are the people who worked in the factories of Birmingham.

    The person who said that seems to be suffering from a complete lack of reality – total bollocks.

  28. j0nz — on 29th November, 2005 at 8:02 pm  

    Thanks bananabrain for your comments very insightful!

  29. j0nz — on 29th November, 2005 at 8:12 pm  

    The person who said that seems to be suffering from a complete lack of reality – total bollocks.

    You’re surprised? This is referring to a link in The Guardian, right?! Guardian columnists are hardly renowned for their reality based reporting…

  30. Al-Hack — on 29th November, 2005 at 8:56 pm  

    He was referring to the black guy who made the statement J0nz, don’t get ahead of yourself ;)

  31. Jez — on 29th November, 2005 at 10:54 pm  

    bananabrain – Do indian jews suffer racism from other jews ? Are indian jews part of the wider jewish community or more likly to be found in asian communities? How many indian jews are in uk ?

  32. inders — on 30th November, 2005 at 12:35 am  

    Rohin that funeral scene is not symbolic its the traditional tibetan way of treating their dead. Its written about in the book of the dead. Something to do with the body being a shell and the soul being non-existant or already transcended.

  33. Vikrant — on 30th November, 2005 at 9:04 am  

    Do indian jews suffer racism from other jews ?

    Well Jez, i think sometime in 1960′s some Israeli Rabbis declared Bene Israel to be non-Jews. It was only in 1995 that DNA tests proved the fact that Bene Israel indeed originated from Israel.

  34. Rohin — on 30th November, 2005 at 6:03 pm  

    Inders my friend, read it again – I said the symbolism about the Chinese invasion was censored, I didn’t say the funeral was symbolic.

    In fact I have done a little research recently about that type of funeral, which you can see here. It must be said though, many Tibetans who have come to India now cremate their dead.

  35. Evan — on 30th November, 2005 at 8:09 pm  

    I am an Ashkenazi (European) Jew with Indian Jewish relatives now living in Israel. I have a keen interest in the Jewish communities of India, and recently came across this rather nice Sukkot festival song the from the Baghdadi community of Bombay. It’s sung in Hebrew, but the music is played on Indian instruments – there’s a tabla in there, I’m sure of it…

    Courtesy of the Jewish National and University Library: http://jnul.huji.ac.il/dl/music/sukot/mp3/sukaBombey.mp3

  36. Leslie — on 1st December, 2005 at 9:06 pm  

    Quite a few Jewish Indians (or should that be Indian jews? ) are in the UK having come from Mumbai and Calcutta.

    A good friend of mine’s mom came from Calcutta over 50 years ago. When in Calcutta spoke no English. Still has a slight accent today.

    They have generally integrated well with British Jews.

    Cheers

    Leslie

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